Sunday, October 09, 2011

Oh . . . Just One More Thing . . .

Steve Jobs with iPad
"ars longa, vita brevis"

I thought I'd said my piece about Steve Jobs yesterday, but some other words of his that I'd previously read turned up in various tributes to the man and reminded me that there is just one more thing that I'd like to say about him. In several papers and also online, I saw a statement that he'd made in an interview with Fortune magazine back in 2000:
In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior decorating. It's the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.
I've taken this quote from a BBC article, "In quotes: Apple's Steve Jobs" (October 6, 2011), because I couldn't find the original interview in Fortune, but if somebody else can locate that . . .

In re-reading these words, I realized that this is precisely how I feel about good writing. A beautifully written argumentative essay, for example, will look better on its surface, by which I mean the flow of its literary style, if it is well reasoned logically, well supported evidentially, and well organized thematically. Literary style isn't merely window dressing. It entails the selection of just the right word in exactly the right phrase or clause to say precisely what you mean to say. This requires attention to detail. A quick dash -- to suggest a light touch -- a comma, even if not grammatically mandated, or a period in the right place even if the sentence is a fragment.

And knowing when to stop.

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At 6:01 AM, Blogger dhr said...

A beautifully written argumentative essay [... all the way up to...] This requires attention to detail

That was also the writing philosophy of a writer and essayist who, imho, has been the leading figure in 20th century Italian culture: Primo Levi.

He theorized it in several short essays, e.g. "Dello scrivere oscuro" (On = against obscure writing), or the praise of Aldous Huxley's style, in his earlier books at least.

Blessea [word verification]

At 6:07 AM, Blogger dhr said...

By Primo Levi, as to this issue, see in English:

- The Periodic Table

- The Mirror Maker: Stories and Essays

At 6:12 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks. I've read some things by Levi and admired them.

Jeffery Hodges

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